A few months before the wedding, my father and I got into an altercation where 27 years of internalized conflict literally spilled into the streets. My throat hurt that night from all the screaming. You would have thunk someone was being bloody murdered. I refused to communicate with him for weeks thereafter. Just a few months ago, frustration reached its tipping point and I walked out of dinner at his house, and rejected over 10 calls in 5 minutes from my mother pleading me to return.
My father never actually taught me much, at least that was the way I needed it. All my life, he would tell me what to do, but never actually walk me through it. He expected me to fulfill his wishes but never explain what he wanted. In simple house hold chores such as sweeping, washing dishes, setting the table, mopping… I was a failure. He would push me aside and take over in the middle of my chores because I wasn’t good enough or fast enough or effective enough or whatever enough. And he never encouraged me to practice to get better. And to this day, I have a difficult time beginning and completing chores.
But I don’t hate him. I know he loves me. Love just means something different in Chinese. But what I’ve always wanted from him was his respect. What I’ve wanted from him was him to tell me that I’ve done a good job. That he’s proud of me. Even in my mistakes, I want him to just nod with approval. I want him to tell me I am a good husband, and will be a good father. He hasn’t done this yet, I’m still waiting. But love is not conditional, to wait for him to do what I want before I love him is juvenile.
So how does this first post relate to family and love? Below is the parent dedication to my father on the day of the wedding ceremony. I wrote it in English, and my friend Sam Tsoi translated and read it to my father. It should explain a lot. So this is my first post. I dedicate it to my father, and the amazingly strong woman by his side.
When a child grows up, he thinks it’s his job to run as far away from his parents’ control as possible. He thinks it’s his job to forge a new life for himself alone. He thinks it’s his job to learn from his own mistakes. But parents get in the way. I resented you.
When parents raise a child, it’s their responsibility to keep him as safe as possible. It’s their responsibility to help him build a new life, better than the ones they had. It’s the parents’ responsibility to teach him how to be independent and strong. But the child refuses to listen. You continue to love me.
I brought tears to your eyes. I stopped listening to you. I stopped speaking Chinese. I wrote on the walls. You painted them. I wrote on them again. I didn’t clean the house. I didn’t clean my room. I didn’t clean the dishes. I would often come home late for dinner. I wasted lots of money. I stole lots of money from your drawers. I lied about stealing lots of money from your drawers. I lied some more about other things. I yelled at you for being bad parents. I told you I hated you.
And through it all, you still love me. You always say, “just wait until you’re older.” I am a little bit older now, and as I’m nearing closer to the part of life life when I can think about having children – I love you now more than ever. I can only imagine the amount of effort it must have took to love me the last 27 years. Very soon, I don’t have to imagine.
Thank you for what you’ve taught me. Some of the best lessons you never needed to speak a word. Thank you for teaching me to ride a bike. Thank you for teaching me to never give up. Thank you for teaching me to be a loving husband. Thank you for teaching me it’s more important to love my wife more than myself.
And one last thing. I’m sorry I never cleaned my room. But don’t worry, I have wife now.